Kharpert: The Golden Plain of the Armenian Plateau

The following excerpt has been adapted from Historic Armenia After 100 Years: Ani, Kars, and the Six Provinces of Western Armenia (Stone Garden Press, $39.95, Pub. Feb. 2015) by Matthew Karanian.

The fortress of Kharpert is perched atop an empty hillside. This hillside had been the Armenian Quarter of Kharpert until 1915. (Photo © 2014 Matthew Karanian,; reprinted with permission.)
The fortress of Kharpert is perched atop an empty hillside. This hillside had been the Armenian Quarter of Kharpert until 1915. (Photo © 2014 Matthew Karanian,; reprinted with permission.)

Kharpert is the Voski Dasht—the Golden Plain—of the Armenian Plateau.

This area, which is the site of historic Armenian settlement of Tsopk, and which is known in today’s Turkey as Harpoot, is also one of the oldest areas of Armenian habitation. Some scholars believe that Kharpert may even be the cradle of the Armenian nation.

Whether the Armenian nation originated here, or farther east in Bitlis, or Van, or elsewhere, however, there is no dispute that Armenian Kharpert holds one of the keys to understanding the origins of the Armenian people.

In centuries past, Kharpert’s fields of grain helped the region to earn its designation as the Golden Plain. By 1915, however, Kharpert had earned a new moniker: “the Slaughterhouse Province.” An American diplomat who lived in Kharpert from 1914-17 bestowed the name upon the region. He selected the name after observing the fate of the deported Armenians who had been herded to Kharpert from their homes in other parts of the Armenian Plateau.

During the century before its demise in 1915, Armenian Kharpert had developed into a significant center for missionaries from the United States, and for American-sponsored schools.

The exposure of Kharpertsi Armenians (Armenians from Kharpert) to these U.S. institutions in the late 1800’s helped to inspire them to adopt Western ways, and to travel to the U.S.—sometimes as immigrants, and sometimes as sojourners or pandukhts, laborers who intended to work in the U.S., save their earnings, and then return to Kharpert to help their families.

Just prior to 1915, the top American diplomat in Kharpert had estimated that roughly 80 percent of the Armenians who immigrated to the United States had come from Kharpert. These travelers formed some of the earliest Armenian communities in the United States, in the factory and mill towns of southern New England. Many settled in places such as Worcester, Mass., which was the site in 1891 of the first Armenian church in the US.

Among Diaspora Armenians living in North America today, the Kharpertsi are believed to be among the most numerous. And for most of the 20th century, say some, the Armenians of Kharpert were the quintessential Armenian Americans.


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Matthew Karanian
Matthew Karanian practices law in Pasadena, Calif. He is the author of ‘The Armenian Highland: Western Armenia and the First Armenian Republic of 1918’ (Stone Garden Press, 2019). For more information, visit


  1. The “American diplomat” was Leslie Davis, who wrote an eyewitness book entitled “The Slaughterhouse Province.” It’s still available in some libraries. Like Henry Morgenthau, he tried to meet with Turkish officials to stop or slow down the genocide. He also protected Armenians (some of whom had become American citizens) in his consulate and helped smuggle them to other countries. If someone wanted to describe the Armenian Genocide from an outsider point of view — rather like Schindler — Davis would make a great focus. His descriptions of Lake Geoljuk (now Lake Hazar) are mind-boggling.

  2. I an a son of a Kharpertsi survivor and my wife, Anna, is a daughter of Sepastian immigrants. I have orderd a copy Historic Armenia and am anxious to receive it very soon. Ithank the authors for the writing and publishing this book. Thanks Regards, Movses

    • Movses we may be related, my great grandfather’s last name was Paul Agop Movsesian, he was also a Kharbertsi survivor

    • Movses, we may be related.. I am planning a trip to Egypt and possibly to Armenia in Sept 2023. This is from an article written of her story called “For The Sake Of The Children”
      My great-grandmother, VARSINEG AJEMIAN (KARAJIAN/MOVSESSIAN) fortunately was accepted into an American missionary establishment after her husband was killed and two children were stolen in Kharpert. “She escaped with a young son and was with the missionaries until the war ended in 1918. Then she came to Aleppo, Syria, via the American Red Cross and from there to the U.S. with members of the Red Cross.
      It was the year that an epidemic of severe influenza spread over the world and many lives were lost. On Sept. 24, 1918, Mrs.
      Yeghisabeth Vartigian-Movsessian, who lived in Boston, also died of influenza, leaving behind her husband and two children.
      The deceased woman’s husband, Misak Movsessian, had only the choice of remarrying to have someone to take care of his
      two small children. With the help and suggestion of friends, he approached Varsenig and proposed to her. But Varsenig
      replied that she had no intention of remarying so soon. She did not think it would be appropriate, for the loss of her husband
      and her children was still oppressive.
      Misak was not discouraged by her refusal. A few days later he went to see Varsenig again, this time with his children. She
      reacted at first with comments like “why don’t people leave me alone with my wounds. What do they want with a grief
      stricken woman.” But seeing the man before her with the two motherless children, she looked into their eyes and her heart
      opened to them.
      She thought of her martyred husband and her lost children, and it seemed that she heard their encouraging voices. At that
      moment the two children walked toward her. She realized that she could accept them as her own and tearfully embraced
      them. In March of that year she married Misak. it was a happy marriage for them and by that marriage they had a daughter.
      Mrs. Varsenig Movsessian was born in the year 1893 in Kharpert near St. Sepanos Church. She was the daughter of Semon
      Karajan. She lost her mother when she was in her teens. And she received her education in the girls’ college in Kharpert.
      She was a member of many organizations and an active member on many committees. In many ways she was a good leaders and a good example as a patriot.
      This fine lady passed away on December 24, 1949. She left many tears and good memories behind.”

  3. Dear Sirs, Unfortunately you don’t know my book, published in oct-2006 in French. This job has been done by me. You could discover 10 Provinces of Armenia and Chabinkarahissar, with 190 pictures and 208 pages. Only 14 are available today, there were 1000 in 2006. ISBN: 2-9527216-0-2, price 55 Euros.
    Best regards.

    • There is also Sevan Nisanyan’s 2006 Eastern Turkey A Travellers Handbook and, for much more detail, the various volumes in the “Historic Armenian Cities” series of publications edited by Richard G Hovannisian. A usable guidebook for travellers interested in exploring Turkey’s Armenian past in the detail it deserves has yet to be written.

  4. Yes, I agree with Pat’s comments about US Consul Leslie Davis. Actually, the work of Leslie Davis in Kharpert is covered at length in the book, including his observations at Lake Goljuk, his reports to the US Dept. of State, and the more recent publication of The Slaughterhouse Province. There wasn’t room for all this in the excerpt that the author submitted the Armenian Weekly, but it’s definitely in the book.

    The author concludes that “For his efforts, Davis is one of the heroes of the Armenian people.” He certainly deserves greater recognition than he has had.

  5. I am Armenian from Tavush Province, based in Switzerland. Recent years I spend much time there, most of my free time. Together with me, two of my Swiss friends started small projects in Armenia – the most interesting one is the production of Safran crocuses – the first and only Safran from Armenia, we renovate a guest-house in Sarigyukh, a boardered village to Azerbaijan. Our website will be ready soon, more info on Instagram ‚swiss_in_armenia‘

  6. I am the grand daughter of a Khapertsi survivor. My grandmother was married at 13 years old in order to save her life. She suffered depression her whole life due to the horrors of the genocide. Her name was Paris Dervishian (or Darvishian). She lived to be 92 years old.

    • Dee! I have your grandmothers marriage certificate. It looks like she shared a marriage certificate with my grandparents

      I would be happy to send it to you (via email) if you don’t have it.

      Motomommy@me.c o m

  7. My grandfather Sarkis Fermanian, was saved from beheading,by a Henry Sharigian, in kharput. Henry Sharigian was the Armenian ambassador to France and adopted Sarkis Fermanian,took him to France and adopted by Henry Sharigian. The story I was told was that young Sarkis was 6 or 7 at the time his entire family was executed by the Turks. Sarkis Fermanian Sharigian imigrated to NY NY USA in 1927 from France.

    • My family is the Kazarian family, grandfather is Harry, his 2.brothers are Carl and Noubar. My families best best friends were the Fermanians.

  8. Kharpert survivor was my grandmother Azniv Megerdichian. Anyone know her family? Her family owned a tailor shop.
    Shad Merci

    • Hi there . I’m from Elazig as used to be called Kharport. I’m a Kurd and interested in the history of the land I grew …. Unfortunately there has been wars and the consequences of all that was Armenian people migrating . My late grandfather used to say Armenians were very skilled and educated… Just took my attention when you’ve mentioned your ancestors were from here and had to leave .

  9. Kharpert survivor was my grandmother Azniv Megerdician. Anyone know her family? Her family owned a tailor, alteration shop. Thank you.

  10. My mothers family from Kharpet also. Grandma was Arek married to Nahabed Koshgarian. She married at 15, had 14 pregnancies, only 5 survived, ended up here in USA. My mom was last of the Mohicians having lived to almost 98.

    • Hi there
      It interest me and intrigued me to see how history was and how it was thought to me /us . I’m from Elazig known as Kharpet .

    • My great grandmother was Sema Goshgarian, also from Kharpet. Could’ve been spelt Koshgarian. She found refuge in Brookfield Mass, we could possibly be related if you have family up there. She immigrated here in 1914, during the first genocide.

  11. My grandfather Ohannes Peshekerian, was a Harpootsi and came to the USA sometime before the outbreak of the Great War. Though he, his brother and sister immigrated and lived with relatives in Fresno, California, their parents (my great greanparents) did not and were subsequently murdered in the holocaust.

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